March 3, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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When A GIFTED MAN came onto the scene, it had all the high-class auspices a new series could want.  The pilot was directed by Academy Award-winner Jonathan Demme, was written by Susannah Grant (Eric Brockovich) and had a cast that included such strong actors as Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Ehle, Margo Martindale (who, by the time the series premiered, had won a spectacularly-deserved Emmy for the previous season’s Justified) and Pablo Schreiber; its main changes post-pilot were to add ER/SVU veteran Neal Baer as showrunner, and bring another bright talent, Rachelle Lefevre, to the cast.  The basic concept–high-powered Manhattan surgeon is haunted by the chatty ghost of his do-gooder ex-wife, and gradually becomes a better and more charitable man–combined the medical genre with “A Christmas Carol” in a way that seemed promising.

And yet… Gifted Man never really worked, and now it’s a longshot for renewal by CBS.  Returning to the show for its last episodes of the season, one could see that despite the tepid reception and low ratings, very little about the show had changed since its debut.  Every week, Michael Holt (Wilson) would face twin medical crises, one at his posh uptown offices and the other at the free clinic his ex-wife Anna (Ehle) had founded, where he was now reluctantly providing his services (reluctant, that is, until the case of the week passionately engaged him).  At some point, Anna would show up and chatter commentary on Michael’s continued emotional blockage, invariably provoking “Huh?  Who you talking to, Doc?’ reactions from those standing nearby when Anna appeared.  And although they bickered, Michael would share love-that-cannot-be looks with the unhappily married Dr. Kate Sykora (Lefevre), who had replaced Anna at the clinic.  
The season finale didn’t go out of its way to be terribly extra-dramatic.  When Michael encountered the woman who had inherited Anna’s transplanted heart, and the woman died in a car accident, there may have been the suggestion that the final loss of her heart might send Anna away for good, but it was kept vague.  And the possibility of Michael and Kate becoming an actual couple (they had kissed in the previous episode) was put off for another indefinite time, as Kate and her husband decided to work on their marriage some more.
Gifted Man wasn’t–isn’t–a terrible show, and in fact not worse than some of the procedurals safely ensconced on CBS’ air.  It’s limited, though, by its supernatural conceit, because it turned out that there wasn’t much for Anna to do except kibbitz for a few minutes in each episode.    The show might be better off jettisoning Anna if it somehow survives to a second season, and becoming a straightforward medical show.  But one can’t argue all that strongly for it–despite its pedigree, there’s nothing about A Gifted Man that’s become distinctive or memorable.  It’s probable that shinier pilots will come to light during pilot season, and Gifted Man‘s talent will survive to work another day somewhere else.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."